In Montana’s U.S. House race, Republican Greg Gianforte leads Democrat Rob Quist by 8 percentage points, according to a Gravis Marketing poll released Monday.
The poll shows Quist closing the gap in the final three weeks before voting ends Thursday, May 25.
“The Democrat is gaining — among independents he’s doing well, which is good for him," said Doug Kaplan of Gravis. "They don’t have as many Democrats in Montana, compared to the Republicans."
Gravis has done several polls in the Montana race to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House. Zinke, a Republican, resigned Montana’s lone House seat March 2. Gianforte, Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks are the candidates listed on the ballot.
Gravis finds that 45 percent of Montanans who say they’re likely to vote would vote for Gianforte, a Bozeman businessman. Roughly 37 percent of the likely voters told Gravis they would vote for Quist. Wicks' support was 5 percent.
Quist’s polling surge comes as voters tire of the political calls. Kaplan said Gravis polled 462 people in its latest round of polling; the low sample rate stems from election-weary voters hanging up. The margin of error for the poll, taken May 2 through May 4, was 4.6 percent.
Despite the margin of error, Kaplan said there is a trend favoring Quist. Gravis polled 836 likely Montana voters April 27 and found Gianforte leading the pack with 52 percent of the vote. Quist had 39 percent in that poll. The erosion in support for both candidates showed up in a growing number of undecided voters, 10 percent as voting started last week.
Other signs the race is tightening include a secretly recorded campaign phone conversation last week in which Gianforte and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., recognized the Republican's lead as being in single digits, while noting that no poll had Gianforte trailing.
Garin-Hart Research Group, a polling firm surveying Montana voters for the Senate Majority Super PAC, reported in a memo that its late-April results that 44 percent of the 601 Montana voters it interviewed intended to vote for Gianforte, while 38 percent intended to vote for Quist.
Garin-Hart noted that there was enthusiasm gap that favored Quist. Among voters who identified as most motivated to vote, Gianforte had 48 percent support to Quist’s 47. The memo provided no margin for error.
Montanans are voting. Absentee ballots went out in the mail May 1. Sunday night, Montana’s secretary of state reported that 17 percent of those absentee ballots had been returned. In Yellowstone County, the Monday ballot count was about 22,000, said Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford. That’s roughly a third of the vote submitted in a county that represents one-seventh to one-eighth of the vote in most statewide elections.